SIUC professor to visit White House

By Gus Bode

Brad Udall, a creative writing professor, will meet scholars who enjoy literature

It’s not everyday that someone can discuss literature with the first lady.

But Brady Udall, an SIUC faculty member, will be in the White House Tuesday to meet Laura Bush and many others who have a love of literature.


Udall, an associate professor who teaches creative writing, will attend Laura Bush’s “Salute to American Authors Series” at the White House to participate in a panel discussion about female authors from the West such as Willa Catcher, Edna Ferber and Laura Ingalls Wilder, said Alison Harden, a spokeswoman for Bush.

“They called me and asked if I’d like to be involved,” said Udall, an associate professor who teaches creative writing. “[If] you get invited to the White House you say ‘yes.'”

Although Udall grew up in the West, he said he is still worried because others who are attending study the West and its writers.

“I’m excited about it because it’s an opportunity that one doesn’t have every day and yet, at the same time, it makes me nervous because I don’t feel I’m an expert on the subject at hand,” he said.

Additionally, Udall said he will be the only male on the panel and is not sure why he was chosen.

“I hope they don’t ask me any questions,” he said. “I’ve read Laura Ingalls Wilder and I’ve read Willa Catcher, but I’m not an expert.”

Rodney Jones, an SIUC English professor, said he believes Udall was invited because he is a “superb writer.”


“I don’t think there is a more talented fiction writer of his generation than Brady,” he said. “I’ve told him as much. He’s a world-class young writer.”

While Udall remains excited, he said he does not consider the visit of great importance. He said that getting his books published or winning a prize is more important. While in the capital, Udall will sign and perform a reading of his book “Letting Loose the Hounds” at a bookstore. His book is a collection of short stories set in Arizona and Utah.

To prove that he was at the White House, Udall said he would try to take a napkin or ashtray since he is too shy to ask for pictures and autographs. Udall said he is excited that the First Lady is promoting literature.

“I think that for a lot of years artists and writers in America felt somewhat dismissed or obscured especially in political circles for awhile,” he said. “It’s just good to see that somebody near the top values literature in this way enough to talk about it within the walls of the White House – I think that’s a good thing.”

Reporter Lindsey J. Mastis can be reached at [email protected]